Five months ago, when we were packing up our lives in Manila, I wanted so badly to just stay. I didn't think I could handle any more tearful farewells and I felt horrible tearing our kids away from our Peace Church family who helped to raise our kids. I am still filled with tears when I think back on those painful goodbyes.
I knew that when the doors of the airplane closed, so would the entire life we had built and everything and everyone that was familiar to our kids. Everything that was “home” would be instantly gone, never to be rebuilt again. We were losing it all at once, and it hurt badly.
The emotions were intense; they still are. And while deeply grieving the farewells and painfully releasing the motherly roles I played in some of our Peace Church members’ lives, I was also very much looking forward to being with our family in Canada again.
On our last day in Manila, I snuck out of our very full house for a quiet moment on our front veranda. I sat down to read two special messages: one from my sister, so full of excitement to have us home again soon, and one from a best friend in Manila, so sad to say her final goodbyes. I sat there and just bawled. I had never felt such pain and such joy all at once; it was incredibly overwhelming.
The tears flowed during our final farewells, and when I saw my parents at the Vancouver airport, my tears flowed again, this time with joy, as I hugged my mom and dad and finally introduced them to my baby Jericho. We had left our home in Manila, but we were also home again.
What I didn't realize five months ago, when I was so hesitant to leave Manila, was that God had a perfect plan for us. This little town of Yarrow, B.C., that we now call home was exactly what we needed.
It wasn’t until a few days after we landed in Vancouver that our plans all fell into place. Darnell was asked to pastor Yarrow United Mennonite Church, and we could live in the house owned by the church. We’d be just 20 minutes from family and friends in Abbotsford, where we own a house that is now rented out, but we’d get to live in this gorgeous little town between the mountains and the river.
Coming from the cement jungle of Manila, filled with 12 million people, I saw Yarrow, a farming town of about 3,000, as entirely different! Instead of frequenting Manila’s huge busy malls, we filled our summer with quiet walks to the river; swimming in the fresh, cold water; and picking wild blackberries. Instead of a stressful drive to school along six lanes of jeepney-filled traffic, our school commute is a walk through fields that are surrounded by river and mountains and farm animals. I don't think it could be more different. We welcome the calm of this life; it is rest for our souls.
Cody was given a Canada T-shirt for his birthday that says “Canada: where I call home.” I asked him if he agreed, if he felt Canada was home. I expected him to say yes. After all, it’s been four months since we left Manila, and he seems so well adjusted and happy here. But he told me, with a sheepish smile, “No, Mom. It’s not home for me. But maybe after I’m here a little longer it will feel like home.”
I understand completely. It takes time, my boy. Despite loving where we are now, feeling totally welcomed by a wonderful community and enjoying our little town, “home” doesn’t quite describe it yet. But we’re building it, every day. And someday, when Cody says it is home, I’m sure I will shed a tear for Manila again.
It hurts a lot to lose a home, to lose a life. But the pain also means there was much love to lose, and for that I am so deeply grateful. That life—the one where we laughed and struggled with our Peace Church community; the one where we brought two more babies home; the one where we discipled and were discipled; the one that gave us so much life and energy, passion and purpose—is all over. We mourn it, yet we rejoice in the full life it was. We thank God for the friendships that will last a lifetime and know that our work and connection to the Philippines will continue forever.
Darnell and Christina Barkman were MC Canada Witness workers in the Philippines for six years. Their family includes Cody, Makai, Teyah and Jericho.